Dynas Johnson
beneath this skin razed with decay,

there’s a heart that’s stopped singing a long time ago. blood on my shirt, dribbles of gore. hair clumped or clawed out. more dirt in my head than brain tissue. we’re peeling faster than oranges. these bodies melting from the inside out. wandering past empty police stations, confederate flags, white house. playgrounds and schools. chinatown, hoods, south street, north philly. by the time you start seeing the glaring bone of chicken-picked remains, who got the brain cells to care if you’re black white latino asian, from this or that country, beliefs, sexual orientation, if you used to be anything other than what you are now? can that even register in our instinct-driven existence? we’re dead. everything about us is gone. not trying to prioritize universalism over individual experience, though. or drag erasure over who we used to be. but i’m glad the neo-nazis aren’t here anymore. and the kkk. hard to hang someone or burn crosses when you don’t have the arms or the will to do it. too bad we couldn’t cut that out while everyone could enjoy it. but everything has a pro and a con. where is my name? i have no land or shore. my blackness no longer holds context. my summer honey glaze now festers a foul smell. half my face is missing. can’t read and my old poetry is sleeping on a desk somewhere too far for me to go back. tried to stay with my family but they, well. hard to recognize someone after the change, you know? everyone’s just trying to get to the next meal. lost them way back. i’m just thankful that they died from bites and not from being eaten alive. no one responds to throat ripping screams, no remorse or belly-heave. you know, i don’t eat people. i realized that’s what makes us stupid. i guess it’s still cannibalism. i’m not enough to save anyone. i tried to help once but the soon-to-be victims couldn’t understand my intent. tried speaking but the words crawled through the air as gurgled syllables. worm-throat. a language barrier that couldn’t be crossed this time. I avoid hordes because that’s where the screams are. despite everything, i’m hungry. and ashamed. maybe this is the after-rapture. maybe this was how the world was supposed to end. wasn’t enough love to keep this thing going, so earth gave up on us. i’m an unnatural wretch, but i still pray. i pray my soul made it to the right place. this body’s trying to return to dust. original pith of us. i like the rain. water loosens the tissue, makes solid flesh spongy and easy to pull away. it’ll take years to finally crumble into chewed bones, but i’m waiting for that day. i have nothing else to wait for anyway. death abandoned creatures like me. i’m waiting to become soil. the maggots are well-fed already. maybe if I offer up my corpse as fertilizer, this curse will mean something. i’ve always wanted to become a garden.

Dynas Johnson is an English major at Temple University and a contributing editor for Hyphen, Temple’s undergraduate literary magazine. Her cross-genre piece, “Inside a Water Bottle Crusted with Plankton,” is forthcoming in Sooth Swarm Journal. When she is not writing, she can be found volunteering at the Eastern Service Workers Association, studying, or looking for new bubble tea places.